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Biological Microscope

    The most common type of microscope (and the first invented) is the optical microscope. This is an optical instrument containing one or more lenses producing an enlarged image of a sample placed in the focal plane. Optical microscopes have refractive glass and occasionally of plastic or quartz, to focus light into the eye or another light detector. Mirror-based optical microscopes operate in the same manner. Typical magnification of a light microscope, assuming visible range light, is up to 1250x with a theoretical resolution limit of around 0.250 micrometres or 250 nanometres. This limits the practical magnification limit to ~1500x. Specialized techniques (e.g., scanning confocal microscopy, Vertico SMI) may exceed this magnification but the resolution is diffraction limited. The use of shorter wavelengths of light, such as the ultraviolet, is one way to improve the spatial resolution of the optical microscope, as are devices such as the near-field scanning optical microscope.

    Sarfus, a recent optical technique increases the sensitivity of standard optical microscope to a point it becomes possible to directly visualize nanometric films (down to 0.3 nanometre) and isolated nano-objects (down to 2 nm-diameter). 

    The technique is based on the use of non-reflecting substrates for cross-polarized reflected light microscopy.

    Ultraviolet light enables the resolution of microscopic features, as well as to image samples that are transparent to the eye. Near infrared light can be used to visualize circuitry embedded in bonded silicon devices, since silicon is transparent in this region of wavelengths.

    In fluorescence microscopy, many wavelengths of light, ranging from the ultraviolet to the visible can be used to cause samples to fluoresce to allow viewing by eye or with the use of specifically sensitive cameras.

    Phase contrast microscopy is an optical microscopy illumination technique in which small phase shifts in the light passing through a transparent specimen are converted into amplitude or contrast changes in the image. The use of phase contrast does not require staining to view the slide. This microscope technique made it possible to study the cell cycle in live cells.

    The traditional optical microscope has more recently evolved into the digital microscope. In addition to, or instead of, directly viewing the object through the eyepieces, a type of sensor similar to those used in a digital camera is used to obtain an image, which is then displayed on a computer monitor. These sensors may use CMOS or charge-coupled device (CCD) technology, depending on the application.

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